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Challenge: Bedtime Secrets

Real Bedtime Stories from a Sleep-deprived Mom

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(Photo Credit: Danielle Guenther)

Have you seen that hilarious online photo of a mom and dad checking in on their baby and then crawling out of the nursery like two home intruders?

It doesn’t quite have the same “LOL effect” when you find yourself air-dropped into that scenario, mid-tiptoe, half-slinking out of your own master bedroom in fear of waking up baby Godzilla in the crib.

Sounds a little crazy but parents know all too well how a baby’s bedtime routine can make or break a sleep-deprived adult’s will at the drop of a cry. I am living proof.

For the first few months of my daughter’s life, our schedules revolved around her sleep. Most experts agree babies under four months aren’t developmentally ready to be put on a sleep routine. That meant the smallest human in our household was the boss of all of us, enforcing lights out, total pitch-dark silence whenever she fell asleep, which was typically early, like 8 p.m.

The last time I went to bed at that hour, I was seven. When adults get nostalgic about childhood, it’s usually not about going to bed early, but give a “sleep-deprived, breastfeeding-on-demand mom” the option of going to sleep at that hour and I’ll gladly take it. I can’t say my husband and older son looked at the situation the same way, especially because they had to spend the rest of the evening speaking in hushed tones and walking around the house on the balls of their feet.

The good news for us and for the millions of parents of newborns is that it does get easier—whew!

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We introduced the Ferber method soon after my maternity leave ended and I returned to work. Those first few nights of crying when I put her in her crib were hard emotionally. It often seemed like she was wailing inconsolably for hours when in reality it might have been 5 to 10 minutes; the progressive timed intervals Dr. Ferber suggests to wait before checking in on baby.

She learned quickly I wasn’t abandoning her and, within one to two weeks, the crying stopped altogether. It turns out babies are infinitely adaptable no matter what sleep method you choose—that is, as long as you remain consistent in your approach. I’ve learned this first-hand as a mom of two and from helping other moms and dads navigate both the joys and challenges of parenthood as editor of TheBump.com.

These days our three-year-old goes off to bed after getting her milk, changing into her pajamas and brushing her teeth. We like to think she’s at an age where reasoning works…sometimes. And when it doesn’t, I silently recite Go the F**k to Sleep and promise her a big-girl treat in the morning. That usually does the trick.

No one ever said parenting didn’t come without a few well-timed bribes.

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